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A few thoughts about the discrimination lawsuit against the Mets

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I’ve read the complaint in the lawsuit filed against the Mets. And while I will always assume innocence before guilt and assume allegations are merely that -- allegations -- before passing judgment, I will say that this suit looks like it could be a big, big problem for Jeff Wilpon and the Mets.

Again, if you haven’t had a chance to read it, do so here. Once you get down to the section entitled “Factual Allegations” on Page 3, it’s not a legalistic document. Anyone can grok it. What I groked -- and if you’re new here and don’t know me, know that I am an attorney who defended such lawsuits for 11 years -- are some very specific allegations, the sorts you don’t often see in shady and/or ambulance-chasing lawsuits.

In shady cases things are stated broadly. There are, initially anyway, very few allegations of specific statements attributed to individuals. Our legal system is one which allows for initial complaints to be somewhat vague and to have the specifics filled in later. Not-so-ethical lawyers and plaintiffs take advantage of that feature of the system from time to time, trying to shake people down. This one is not that sort of thing.

What it does have are allegations which will be very easy to test in the course of discovery. For example:

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It’s no mystery how the plaintiff is going to attempt to establish that part of the claim. She’s going to take the depositions of the people at that meeting, all of whom will have to testify under oath about it.

Now, we like to act like people will willfully lie under oath because television and movies make us seem like it happens all the time. But it doesn’t happen all the time, especially when sophisticated businesspeople and attorneys in high profile positions are involved. They may lie beforehand. They may lie later. They may lie in the course of their business dealings. But get them in a deposition or on the stand, and you’d be amazed at how often the truth comes out. Or, when it doesn’t come out at first, it comes out eventually, because people are nowhere near as skilled at lying as they like to think they are. People like to knock the legal system, but it’s a pretty efficient process in its own weird way. At least in this regard.

Does that mean that the allegations are true? No, and I don’t know if they are or not. But I do know that reputable attorneys like the ones who represent the plaintiff here do not make such easily testable assertions in complaints in specific terms like these (and as appear in several other places in the complaint) if they’re trying to shake someone down or use a lawsuit as leverage to get something else. They may be false, sure, but based on my experience, allegations stated the way in which the allegations are stated here ring true. Or, certainly ring in a non-frivolous manner.

Also worth noting: many of the allegations don’t require anyone’s testimony to establish, at least beyond authenticating documents. There is talk of emails in the complaint, the timing of which matter to the plaintiff’s claims that she was discriminated against. That sort of thing will be easily testable. You don’t claim “Person sent me email X, and then I sent email Y and then I got email Z” at a certain time if you can’t prove it. It just doesn’t happen in lawsuits like this.

None of that is to say that this lawsuit is 100% righteous or that it tells the whole story or that the plaintiff will prevail. There may be things we don’t know about which may turn up later. There may be problems with the plaintiff’s story. It may settle and we’ll never know what happens. But we can say that, on the very surface of it, it does not have the characteristics of a frivolous lawsuit, or one fired off ill-advisedly. It seems very serious, and the I presume that the Mets are taking is as such.